With cell phone access growing by close to 40% in the past two years, Rwanda is quickly becoming one of Africa’s main “mobile-first” markets. And with nearly two-thirds of its citizens under the age of 24, it’s no surprise that mobiles are starting to play a key role in helping youth gain skills and find work.
Since 2012, Souktel has leveraged this trend to support EDC’s Akazi Kanoze project–working to link 15,000+ young Rwandans with training and jobs, through a custom mobile information service. Launched with the country’s main mobile networks, the service is offered at low cost to participating youth; the project covers part of the access fees. To date, 24 percent of Akazi Kanozegraduates tracked through the service have reported receiving a job opportunity.
In early 2014, as the service approached its two-year mark, a key question emerged: How can this model be scaled up nationally, but sustainably—so that it reaches more youth while covering all of its costs?
To help answer this question, the GSMA’s Mobile for Employment program held a workshop in Rwanda to explore the topic in depth–bringing together staff from EDC and Souktel, the Rwandan Ministry of Youth and ICT, the two main mobile networks, private employers, and youth. Seated around the table together for the first time, the stakeholders spoke candidly about the opportunities—and challenges—related to growing the service into a nation-wide venture.
In May, a new GSMA study, entitled “Scaling Mobile Employment Services: A Stakeholder Perspective”, highlighted key findings from the workshop—and offered practical advice for others who aim to launch similar ventures. Among the study’s recommendations: Government involvement can help boost mobile service growth; “bundling” of job information with educational content can attract more youth—and increase their willingness to pay for service use.
“The Akazi Kanoze initiative is a unique example of collaboration between stakeholders,” wrote Prachi Nema, an analyst with the Mobiles for Employment team and a co-author of the study, in a blog post. “Rwanda…is setting an example by showing…eagerness to explore mobile as a platform in addressing youth employment issues”. She added: “We believe that the key stakeholders here have an excellent opportunity” to design a model for scale-up that can “further [the] economic development of the country”.
Building on the study’s findings, the team is now preparing for that growth. “We’re excited about offering this job service to a wider audience of Rwandan youth,” commented Yazeed Sheqem, Souktel’s Africa/Middle East Business Development Director. “And to achieve this, we’re working with all the key parties involved to lay the foundations for sustainability”.
Read the full study here.